Review: Saint-Saëns – Cello Concertos etc.

Who could possibly resist this collection? With cellist Truls Mørk’s commanding account of the Cello Concertos, a scintillating The Carnival of the Animals and Louis Lortie’s scene-stealing turn in the fantasy Africa, this album is a sure-fire winner.

Review: I Heard You Singing – English Songs

Riveting performances by the English tenor Ben Johnson, winner of the Audience prize in the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, make this album of little-known English songs a delight.

The Piano Music of Jean Sibelius

Until fairly recently, the critical reception for the piano music of Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957) has largely been dismissive and scornful. Tim Page writing in the New York Times in 1987 summed up the feelings of many when he described the music as “…for the most part, shockingly bad. And not the sort of…

The Wit and Wisdom of Sir Thomas Beecham

It was the sort of gaffe that only Sir Thomas Beecham could get away with. As part of a tour of Germany in 1936 with his newly-formed London Philharmonic Orchestra, he gave a live broadcast concert in Berlin. Noticing Adolf Hitler in the audience applauding after the first piece, he turned to the orchestra and,…

Half-monk, half-rascal

Writing to a friend in 1942, Poulenc admitted “I am well aware that I am not the kind of musician who makes harmonic inventions, like Igor [Stravinsky], Ravel or Debussy, but I think there is a place for new music which is content with using other people’s chords. Was that not the case with Mozart…

Rejoice in the Lamb

“This is still your best yet, you know” Peter Pears told Benjamin Britten in 1944 about his veritable gem of a work, the festival cantata Rejoice in the Lamb which Britten had been commissioned to write for the 50th anniversary of St Matthew’s Church in Northampton.

A Ceremony of Carols

When Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976) composed his magical A Ceremony of Carols in 1942 on a long sea voyage from New York to Liverpool, he little realised that he was penning what would become one of his best-loved and most performed works.

Into the Sunset: the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss

On the morning of 30 April 1945, the same day that Adolf Hitler committed suicide in an underground bunker in Berlin,  Major John Kramers of the US Army 103rd Infantry Division and his men called on the shuttered villa at Zöppritzstrasse 42 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps with a view to headquarter his men…

An Alpine Symphony

Shortly before the premiere in 1915 of his tone poem  Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony), Richard Strauss (1869 – 1949) quipped “Now at last I have learned to orchestrate!”

Death in Venice

In the third volume of his memoirs, An Orderly Man (1983), the actor Dirk Bogarde tells the story of the first screening for Warner Bros. studio executives of the film Death in Venice, directed by Luchino Visconti. Naturally they were curious to see how their money had been spent.